Certain critical roles are essential for a business’s success. A product manager is undoubtedly one of them. It is a role you will often find at large-scale FMCG organizations, but not much in other industries or small to medium-scale enterprises. Many business leaders still lack a clear understanding of a product manager’s responsibilities. It prevents them from harnessing the immense value such professionals could bring to organizations of different scales and industries.
So, in this article, we will examine important aspects of a product manager’s role to help you understand why they are pivotal to a product’s path to success.
Who Is a Product Manager?
A product manager looks after a product or service from start to end—i.e., from ideating a product concept to launching it and managing its entire life cycle. In other words, they act as the guardian of the assigned product.
They differ from brand managers and project managers. Brand managers manage only the brand side of products, and project managers are responsible for executing a specific part of it, such as product development, which they will handle as a standalone project.
Unlike these roles, a product manager is responsible for the entire product and will look into a range of areas with cross-functional teams—from sales and marketing to research, finance, production, QA, and procurement.
So, where can you find product managers? Many businesses turn to Leadar to find professionals with specific industry experience. You can also consider LinkedIn to headhunt for candidates or at least to get a few recommendations from your network. Advertising on job boards is another option, although reviewing and filtering hundreds of applications could be time-consuming.
The Role of a Product Manager
Here are ten essential roles of a product manager in guiding a product toward success.
1. Assessing Market Needs
A product manager will work with in-house or external research teams to understand market needs and gaps. For example, they will assess common challenges customers encounter, products currently available to meet their needs, and new solutions to fill any voids. This process often leads to new ideas and concepts, which product managers could work on to materialize into viable solutions.
2. Pitching New Products and Services
These professionals will ideate new concepts and develop them into product pitches with sales and financial forecasts based on sound data insights. They will present these to the senior management for feedback and approval to transition them into marketable products.
3. Product Development
Product managers take approved product concepts into the development stage and work with third-party agencies and internal stakeholders to design and develop prototypes. They then carry out product testing, for example, by using focus groups, blind tests, and other research, which will help them tweak and improve their products further. They may also look into brand and packaging development during this stage.
4. Designing Go-to-Market Strategies
Creating a robust go-to-market strategy is another important responsibility of a product manager. They will work with brand and marketing teams to identify key messages and develop a detailed marketing plan. A well-mapped sales and distribution strategy and clear deliverables with KPIs are also critical for an effective product roadmap.
5. Determining Pricing Strategies
These professionals will analyze product positioning strategies, consumer feedback, competitor pricing, cost base, and revenue, profitability, and break-even targets to develop the optimum pricing strategy. They will also consider distributor margins to arrive at different price points and monitor market movements to reassess and adjust product pricing.
6. Launching New Products
As the sole guardian of a new product, product managers will oversee its market launch from A to Z. Their leadership and communication skills and ability to build close relationships will be crucial as they work with various cross-functional teams and external parties to deliver successful product launches.
For example, they will work with the production team to ensure timely manufacturing and closely liaise with QA professionals for quality assurance. Procurement teams will ensure packaging and marketing materials are delivered on time, while the sales team will implement the product’s distribution as planned. Maintaining a successful cross-collaboration with all these stakeholders is vital for a product manager during a market launch.
7. Tracking Consumer Behavior
A product manager’s role doesn’t end once a product is in the market. They will continue to track consumer demand, preferences, behavior, and trends to collect valuable feedback and market insights. These allow them to quickly adjust their plans and respond to consumer needs with continuous improvements.
8. Monitoring Competitor Landscape
They will also keep track of competitor behavior to ensure they are able to respond with counter-strategies on time. For example, competitors might launch offensive marketing campaigns or resort to price undercutting when you launch a new product. Or they could introduce a new solution to compete against yours. Sometimes, a new market entrant may pose a threat to your business in the future. A product manager will track and monitor all these events to ensure your product stays on top.
9. Managing the Product Life Cycle
These professionals will continue to manage the product’s life cycle to ensure it remains relevant and profitable. For example, they may recommend improving the product formula, repositioning the brand, introducing new product extensions, or expanding business through licensing deals and partnership agreements. This is an important responsibility they are tasked with so that a product can deliver on its overall vision.
10. Reporting to the Senior Management
A product manager will also collect and analyze data and regularly update the senior management about market insights pivotal for decision-making. They will make sales and revenue forecasts, report on progress, and ensure their product gets the required attention from the leadership team.
Driving Your Product Toward Success
The importance of product managers in guiding a product’s future is undeniable. From need assessment to product development and market launch, they play a crucial role in helping materialize a product from concept to market. Not only that, their foresight, leadership, and dedication will help drive a product’s success during the entire life cycle, helping it to compete effectively and cater to consumer needs.